I absolutely love scrolling through Instagram. My feed is full of Bookstagramer's gorgeous flat-lays and bookshelf eye-candy. Some of my favorite reading buddies have come from the connections I've made through talking about books on Social Media.
If you've never created a flat-lay, I double-dog-dare you to try today! You might find that you like it. Personally, I LOVE spending time with books I adore, making them into my own little pieces of art. Besides, it's a good skill to have. Whether you're announcing a new book, hosting a giveaway, geeking out about your latest read, or connecting with other readers, book flat-lays can make a big statement.
Here are a few pointers to help you get started. Don't forget to click on the links to see examples of well done posts from some of my favorite Bookstagram accounts.
Every Flatlay needs to start out with a gorgeous background. The purpose of a background is to add a little bit of texture, but mainly be a supporting element to highlight your product. You have to look for something modern, clean, and appealing. The biggest mistake I see is when people use outdated or considerably worn materials from around their house. If you have designer wood floors, plush throw blankets, yards of flowing linen, use it! But face it, most of us are moms with jelly stains and tight budgets. So, where can we find backgrounds that aren't lackluster?
Here are a few options:
1. Books: Try lining up some of your favorite covers side by side. Or even open up their pages and layer them in a fun way.
2. Things from around the house: Do you have a cool chunky knit blanket that you cuddle up with when you read? Has your back porch weathered in a cool way that fits your Insta's rustic theme? Get creative. Even if something's not perfect, you can make it into a lovely backdrop
3. Go on-sight: The outdoors have so much potential. And all the natural light you could want! There are some really fun examples under #outdoorbooks and #readingoutside on insta. Go check them out for inspiration!
4. Paper Backdrops: If you're going to be regular about flat-lays, I totally recommend investing in a paper backdrop. I have two that look like gorgeous hardwood floors. You can find them online for as low as $10 each. Search around on Etsy or Amazon for the look you want. Having a consistent background color helps each of your pictures stay within a related color palette and will make your feed look really cohesive.
You can use as many, or as few props as you want when you're setting up a flat-lay. Just remember, using props should support your books, not detract from them. Start by finding items around your house that relate to the book, match the tone of the cover, or even just look nice. Here are some ideas for suggested props:
Artificial Flowers: These are one of the easiest props to start with. If you hit up a 50% off sale at Hobby Lobby or Michael's, hunt down flowers at yard sales, or ask family, you can piece together a decent amount of prop flowers without breaking the bank. Try to find colors that will compliment the widest variety of books you can. I purchased a lot of white, a few cool colors, and a few warm colors. That way, I'm covered, no matter what color palette I'm working with.
Fandom Items: Funko-pops, socks, crowns, swords, home decor, mugs, bookmarks, maps... If you're a collector, utilize these items in your flatlays! Someone who does a really great job of this is @lulumoonowlbooks.
More Books: Sometimes the best way to highlight a book is with other books. If I see a book that I haven't read, I'll be more inclined to read it if it's paired with other books that I have read and enjoyed.
Simple Items: Sometimes you can get creative and set a mood with simple items from around the house. Are there things you own that might work? Check out _moonlight.reader_ for a TON of good examples.
Flatlays can be a lot of fun to play around with. The options are as wide as your imagination.
Cover facing up: Having the full cover visible is a great way to highlight a particular book. If you are showcasing more than one book, try not to put them in a straight line. Play around with diagonals, alternating heights, or even varying angles.
Spine facing up: You can get creative about how you showcase your book spines. Form different shapes, create rainbow effects with alternating colors, or come up with something completely unique!
Arranging your books in a fun way, and taking a close up can be a simple way of creating a flat-lay without a background or props. Play around with different options, browse around for inspiration, and enjoy spending some quality time with your books!
I usually use my phone to take flat-lay pics. I use the Photo Shop Express app to make it look it's very best. When you go to post on Instagram, the recommendation is to use the same filter every time, to make your feed really cohesive. So, if you do choose to use a filter, stick to the same one to keep the same tone throughout. Once your picture is cropped and edited, it's ready to go!
I hope you take a few moments today to try it out. I'd love to see what you come up with! Post a link to your flatlay below so I can come celebrate your books with you!
Let’s say someone decides they’d like to be a professional writer. Even though they don’t have much experience, there’s this one story idea that’s been hounding them for years. They pick up a pen and a notebook and write it down, day after day, scene by scene. After putting “the end” on their manuscript, it’s done! That’s all there is to it, right?
But no one wants to publish or represent their book, and those who read it don’t like it but don’t know exactly why. And if no one knows why they don’t like it, how can the writer possibly fix it?
There’s the obvious solution of hiring an editor to polish things up, and that might help the work feel more polished, but editing can only do so much. Sometimes, it can’t fix what’s really wrong with a story. Sometimes, you have to change your mindset more than the words on the page.
First of all, a story isn’t just a bunch of scenes put together. Secondly, being a professional writer isn’t just writing every day and publishing what you finish.
If you believe you can be a writer, and be really good at it without proper training, you have a lot to learn. Literally.
Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong somewhere? It’s an uncomfortable experience to walk into a place, start talking to people, and immediately realize that you’re different. I had that experience recently. I presented at a 3-day writing conference, and I took my 5-month-old baby with me. I should be used to this by now. After all, I took him to the Life, the Universe, and Everything Symposium in February, but that was only for part of one day. This was an entire weekend of toting around a 20lb baby, juggling my gear, and having people walk up to me and start wiggling fingers and babbling at my son.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great ice breaker! I met a lot of authors who will probably remember me the next time we’re at an event together because I brought my baby. I love bringing my babies to conferences, but it has its downsides too. By day two I was burnt out. My baby was fussier, having his nap and feeding schedule thrown off and being overstimulated by strangers and noise. I could tell he missed his routine, and truthfully, so did I. I had to leave every class I tried to attend so that others could learn. I was so frustrated and since all of my presentations were done, I wondered if I should just go home. What could I possibly accomplish with a fussy baby and a troubled heart?
If I had been alone in this author journey of mine, I probably would have gone home. And there’s no shame in that, but I am so glad I wasn’t alone and that I didn’t give up. Instead, I sent a text message to my husband, who was home with my older kids. I sent another message to our writing group chat. I prayed they would be able to help. And boy, did they! While my baby rolled around on the floor, and I cried in a secluded corner of the conference venue, messages flooded in.
Right now, I do not have an office or corner in our little apartment for an official writing space. Instead, I write on my couch, at the kitchen table, in my bed, and sometimes at Starbucks, Kneaders, or the library. And you know what, that’s okay! When I started asking around, I discovered that plenty of people write without an official space to call their own. Even some famous writers had nothing more than a small round table to scribble their thoughts at (I’m looking at you, Jane Austen.) We write while our families do their own noisy things around us, and we produce beautiful work done nonetheless. I write in the noise, and in the mess, and without my favorite candle burning next to me. In a way, I think it’s been a useful learning opportunity for me. Writing up to this point has been a question of “how can I make this work despite all the awkward inconveniences in my way?” And I have fun thinking of new solutions!
So we’re here to talk about it all: how to decide if a dedicated writing space is necessary for you, what makes a good writing space and how to work with the space you have!
There is something magical about holding a physical copy of your own book. Being able to flip through the pages and see all your hard work flash in front of your eyes makes the whole process finally feel real. A lot of people will want to purchase your book via Amazon so their paperback and eBooks will come directly to their front porch or kindle. But what about people who go to bookstores to browse and see what captures their attention? What about teenagers at the library without much spending cash? How do we get our books into physical locations so they're accessible to everyone?
Creating an author platform can be daunting, especially if you are a debut author, or have never published a book. I use to wonder why someone would follow an author before they were published. Now, I know there are many ways we can be of value to the book/writing community at the beginning of our careers.
Today I am going to share with you five recommendations for planning your author platform, so that you may begin to connect with your future readers and have fun while creating it.
It’s finally quiet. Prime time to get working on that manuscript. But instead, you clean the kitchen and fold the laundry. When you run out of housework, you sit down and swear you’re going to write. You’ve picked out the perfect music. You’ve got your favorite beverage within arm’s reach. Your laptop’s open. But instead of writing, you’re on social media again. Then someone calls you and asks if you want to hang out. You say yes, telling yourself that writing is something you can fit in at any time, after all. It’s okay to put it off a bit longer.
We’ve all been in situations like this, where we have good intentions, but we don’t know how to make ourselves move forward. Our focus lapses. Our motivation wanes. Instant gratification gets in the way of our goals, and we’re left regretting all the time we obviously should have spent working, but didn’t. Why does this happen?
It’s no secret that the revision process is the bane of my existence. I love when it all comes together at the end and there’s something satisfying about having the perfect plot idea click in your brain, but revising is so messy! And for me, revision brings on the most resistance and fear. What if I’m not actually a good writer? This book is horrible! No one will ever want to read it. These thoughts are the result of resistance trying to stop growth.
While recently avoiding revision, I listened to the audiobook of Steven Pressfield’s book “The War of Art.” It’s a fantastic read; I highly recommend you pick it up. In his book, Pressfield comments on the fact that resistance is part of the writing process. It can occur at any and every stage of writing, from the first draft to final submission. As writers, we should expect it.
Resistance comes when we are trying to do something good, something that will cause ourselves or others to grow. It’s also the direct result of love. If you’re feeling a lot of resistance in your work right now, it’s a sign that you’re doing a good thing that you love doing. Take that to heart and use your passion to fuel your work!
Some signs that you’re giving into revision avoidance (and therefore resistance) are clean laundry and dishes, children dressed in matching clothes, and frequent social media posts. Meals are cooked at home and surfaces that weren’t clean much (if at all) during the first draft stage are sparkling. The dog gets walked and movies get watched and the manuscript sits on your computer, staring in accusation every time the laptop is opened because you can’t quite bring yourself to close the document and acknowledge that you’re avoiding it, am I right?
The cure for revision avoidance is the famous B.I.C. treatment (Butt In Chair). There are no magical treatments or cures. Acknowledge your fears and move through resistance to fill that seat, open that computer, and get to work. Do the work that you’re meant to do and don’t let resistance win! These story ideas came to you for a reason.
That said, sometimes you just need a break. It’s not bad to take a break. Ideally, set a timer and let yourself browse online for a few minutes, then set your timer again and get back to your manuscript. Don’t let a “break” become days or weeks or months of “writer’s block.” Commit to your story and commit to yourself.
I know I needed a break recently. So, I browsed through memes for writers and decided to compile some of the best ones for your reading pleasure. Have a laugh and then get back to it! You have a book to write.
In October, my very first short story will be published in the Of Fae and Fate Anthology. I think I’m still floored. In fact, an old friend introduced me as an author the other day and my knee jerk reaction was “Me? No, no that’s not true. I’m just a writer.”
Just a writer.
Or am I really an Author now?
It’s funny because I totally bought into the idea that you’re a writer until you sign that contract, then you’re an Author. With a capital A. But now I’m here and I can’t help but wonder, is it different if you just publish a short story? Should you actually cash a check before you call yourself a "capital A" Author? What does it mean if I am an Author now? how am I supposed to act? And why do I keep referring to what I do in the terms of “just___”. Just a Mom. Just a Writer. Just an Author?
As you can see, I have a lot of learning to do, and some of it requires answers you can only get from digging deep down inside. So, let’s chat about how to decide what a title should mean, professionalism, and the relationships you make and keep along the way.
I’ve been part of Writing Through Brambles for over five years. I’ve watched members publish their first works and present multiple stories for critiquing and workshopping. I’ve cheered from the sidelines as they’ve done book signings and interviews. On writing group nights, whenever I have questions, they’re always able to give me great ideas to fix problems, and book recommendations to learn more about plot and character progression.
But even in five years, after presenting three stories, finishing one, winning NanoWrimo, and attending a bunch of conferences, I still feel like I know so little about how to be a writer that doesn’t just write when I feel like it, or who sets my work aside when life happens.
Thankfully, books, conferences, and plain old trial-and-error are great resources for learning what I need to know to take the next step in my writing career. Here are some things I’m currently studying:
How to Generate Ideas
A thought that often hangs me up when I’m writing is, “What if you can’t think of anything else to write when you’re done with this book?” It halts my progress, convincing me that even if I never finish my current work in progress, I’ll at least always have a familiar story to work with.
I’ve also noticed that all the stories I’ve thought of so far have a similar theme to them, if you strip them down to the bare bones, so in spite of having different character arcs and plot points, part of me thinks I’ve only ever had one idea in my life.
We're all writers, we're all moms, writing our way through the "brambles" of life and our stories.